ECONOMY

US home price gains level off amid weak sales, limited number of homes on market

This Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015 photo shows a sign advertising a house for sale in Los Angeles.  Standard & Poor’s releases its 20-city home price index for December and the fourth quarter on Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

This Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015 photo shows a sign advertising a house for sale in Los Angeles. Standard & Poor’s releases its 20-city home price index for December and the fourth quarter on Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)  (The Associated Press)

U.S. home price increases leveled off in December, reflecting a weak sales environment and a small number of homes for sale.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index increased 4.5 percent in December compared with 12 months earlier. That is up from 4.3 percent in November and the same as October's annual increase.

Fewer homes are on the market, pushing up prices and keeping many houses out of reach for would-be buyers. Prices are rising faster than most Americans' wages, slowing sales even as hiring strengthens, consumer confidence grows and mortgages stay low.

The Case-Shiller index covers roughly half of U.S. homes. The index measures prices compared with those in January 2000 and creates a three-month moving average. The December figures are the latest available.